Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on May 20, 1787, Mary Ramsey Lemons Wood was the daughter of Richard Ramsey, a brick manufacturer who died suddenly due to heart disease, and Kate Ramsey, who died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 110. When Mary was two years old, George Washington became President of the United States, the first of 22 presidents under whom she would live. In her youth, future president Andrew Jackson once asked her for a dance.
Mary married Jacob Lemons in 1804, and after raising a family over the course of thirty years in Tennessee, the couple moved on to Alabama in 1837 and Georgia in 1838. Jacob died in 1839, and Mary westered to Missouri ten years later. Mary headed overland to Oregon in 1852 at the age of 65, along with two of her daughters, Nancy Bullock and Catherine Southworth, and their families. She completed the 2000 mile journey at her advanced age riding her favorite animal, a bay mare named Martha Washington. The party followed the Barlow Road into Oregon City and eventually settled in Washington County near Hillsboro.
An experienced midwife, Mary was accustomed to earning money to contribute toward the family’s welfare, and in the bustling years following the California Gold Rush she was able to step beyond the traditional role of a woman in American society. She served as postmistress of Hillsboro, built the Washington Hotel — the first hotel in Hillsboro — and managed it for several years. She married John Wood on May 28, 1854.
Mary Ramsey Lemons Wood died on January 1, 1908, just after midnight on New Year’s Eve. She was 120 years old and had outlived all four of her children. Her grandson, John Wesley Lemons, survived her by less than 25 years, passing away at the age of 75 on October 20, 1932.
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